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Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen

The Dazzling Truth by Helen Cullen
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525815829
Trade paperback, $17.99, 336 pages

The reality of how one family member's crippling depression and anxiety affects an entire family is at the heart of Helen Cullen's emotionally powerful novel, The Dazzling Truth

Murtagh is dazzled by Maeve the moment he sees her at Trinity College in Dublin. Maeve is from Queens, New York, studying acting in Dublin. Murtagh creates ceramic pottery. They fall in love and marry, Maeve leaving her home in America to stay in Ireland.

When Murtagh gets the opportunity to apprentice with a talented potter on a rather isolated island near Galway, they pack up and move away from Dublin. Maeve gives up her dreams of acting to allow Murtagh to achieve his.

They have four children in succession- daughter Nollaig, twin boys Mossy and Dillon, and the youngest girl Sive. Maeve wants to be a good wife and mother, but her lifelong battle with depression and anxiety becomes worse with each year. Giving up the thing that brought her joy and meaning, acting, makes matters worse.

Murtagh tries to help his wife, but as the children grow up, it is difficult for them to understand why their mother is different. She can't be counted on to attend school functions, and she spends days, sometimes weeks, locked up in her dark room and wandering the countryside at night.

On Christmas Eve in 2005, when the family should be celebrating Nollaig's birthday, a tragedy shatters the family forever. The novel travels back and forth in time, and we see how Maeve's crippling battle with depression affects all of them. It is never discussed openly, and not facing it has long lasting repercussions.

Nollaig gives up her plans to become a midwife to stay home, Sive leaves home to becomes an artist. Dillon travels in his work as a musical talent booker, and can't seem to have a meaningful relationship with women. Mossy seems to be the only one who is truly happy. He loves his work as a librarian, marries Kalindi, a lovely, kind woman who has her own career, and they have two young children.

It all comes to a head on Nollaig's 30th birthday, when she begs her entire family to please come home for her big party. 

The Dazzling Truth is a beautiful, moving story about a family living with a secret no one wants to name out loud. Each character comes to vivid life, especially Maeve. We see her struggle with not only her illness, but the regret of not following her dream. She loves her husband and her children, and wants to be a better wife and mother. This book touched me deeply, and if you don't have tears in your eyes at the end of the book, I'm not sure you have a heart. I give The Dazzling Truth my highest recommendation.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Helen Cullen's tour. 

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